A Classroom Without Doors

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:14

    SUSSEX COUNTY-College wasn't what Nick Mayer expected it to be. It was much more fun. For one thing, the animal life in the pond was slimy and startling. A small catfish bit one of his classmates. Then a tiny blue dragonfly gently landed on his hand and stayed there for almost a whole class session. At 12-years-old, college for Mayer was enough of an adventure that he'll probably give it another try in about six years. Mayer, of Augusta, is one of the 93 Sussex County youngsters enrolled in Sussex County Community College's Kids on Campus program this summer. The program, now in its fourth year, has children in fourth- through seventh-grades taking enrichment classes that range from computers and art to wildlife and drama. "It's more than just fun," said Sivaraman Anbarasan, director of Corporate and Community Education, the department that oversees the program. "These are all educational and informative classes. We want the kids to have a feel for going into a college campus." SCCC offers two two-week sessions, where children can choose two classes in the morning and two classes in the afternoon. Classes are spread throughout the campus and the young students eat lunch in the gazebo on the campus green. Connie Dudas, instructor of the "It's a Wild Life!" class, had nine class members out at the pond scooping up pond water and observing what critters they could find. "We didn't expect to find all this," said Mayer, speaking of the tadpoles, fish, frogs and bugs they had observed by the end of the session. Other classes have students growing plants, learning astronomy and hunting for fossils. This summer's offerings also include a fitness class, chess and checkers, movie reviewing, computer animation and solving mysteries, among others. Each year Beth Voris, director of Kids on Campus, puts together a new list of classes. Some are so popular n like Lego architecture n they're offered every year. Voris, who has directed the program since its inception four years ago, is an SCCC alumnus and teacher in Green Township. She sees this summer job as her way of repaying the college where she got her start. "I love this college so much that I felt like this is my way of giving back," Voris said. Voris and staff members of SCCC's Corporate and Community Education department brainstorm on new class topics for each year and Voris finds instructors. This year, all the instructors are certified teachers. Half-day sessions are available, but the majority of the students come to Kids on Campus for the full day, Anbarasan said. The program has grown in popularity and by as early as February, parents start calling the college asking when they can begin to register their children. The program fits in with the college's philosophy of being a community resource for all ages. "And the kids get a kick out of going to college," Anbarasan said.